skip to main content
John Cairney


Dr. John Cairney has a joint appointment as Professor with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences and the Department of Family Medicine.

He received his PhD in Sociology from the University of Western Ontario in 2002. He also completed post-doctoral training in psychiatric epidemiology under Dr. Michael Boyle and Dr. Dan Offord at the Centre for Studies of Children at Risk at McMaster University.

Prior to coming to McMaster, Dr. Cairney held a Canada Research Chair in Psychiatric Epidemiology from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto (2005-2008), and was also Senior Scientist in the Health Systems Research and Consulting Unit at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Dr. Cairney is the inaugural holder of the McMaster Family Medicine Professorship in Child Health Research, and is a Professor in the Departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences. Since 2013, he has been the Director of the Infant and Child Health Research (INCH) Lab. He also serves on the Editorial Board of two journals – Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and BMC Pediatrics. Dr. Cairney is also the inaugural Editor-in-Chief of Current Developmental Disorders Reports, published by Springer.

Featured Publications

  • Cairney J, Kwan M, Veldhuizen S, Faulkner G. (2014). Who uses exercise as a coping strategy for stress? Results from a national survey of Canadians. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 11(5):908-16.  
  • Cairney J, Veldhuizen SA, Kwan M, Hay JA, Faught BE. (2014). Biological age and sex-related declines in physical activity during adolescence. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise 46(4): 730-5.
  • Cairney J, Veldhuizen S, Vigod S, Wade TJ, Streiner D, Kurdyak P. (2014). Exploring the social determinants of mental health service use using Intersectionality Theory and CART analysis. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 68(2):145-50.
  • Cairney J, Rigoli D, Piek J. (2013). Developmental Coordination Disorder and Internalizing Problems in Children: The Environmental Stress Hypothesis Elaborated. Developmental Review 33(3): 224-238.
  • Cairney J, Veldhuizen S. (2013). Is Developmental Coordination Disorder a Fundamental Cause of Inactivity and Health-related Fitness in Children? Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 55 Suppl 4:55-8. 

Clinical and Research Interests

  • Dr. Cairney’s research focuses on the epidemiology of mental health problems across the life span and the impact of childhood physical disability on psychosocial and physical development in children
  • With regards to the first area, topics of interest include the impact of single parenthood on mental health in both women and men, the epidemiology of psychiatric disorder in old age, the impact of social disadvantage and stress on psychiatric distress, the epidemiology of bipolar disorder in Canada, and the impact of stigma and discrimination on quality of life in people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Dr. Cairney's work in childhood disability has focused on Development Coordination Disorder and its impact on physical and psychological well-being in children.
  • He is currently conducting a CIHR funded five-year study of motor coordination, physical activity, physical fitness and obesity
  • Dr. Cairney is also heavily involved in the design and evaluation of tools that can be used to determine whether a child is meeting his or her expected developmental milestones.


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, McMaster University, Centre for Studies of Children at Risk, 2002
  • PhD, University of Western Ontario, Department of Sociology, 2002
  • MA, Queen’s University, Department of Sociology, 1995
  • BA, Brock University, Department of Sociology, 1993

Research Areas

  • Motor coordination, physical activity and health
  • Impact of childhood physical disability on psychosocial and physical development
  • Population patterns of mental health problems and health service responsiveness
  • Pediatric exercise science

More Info

© 2018 McMaster University | 1280 Main Street West | Hamilton, Ontario L8S4L8 | 905-525-9140 | Contact Us | Terms of Use & Privacy Policy